Egypt: Islamist Party Open to Israel Talks

December 20, 2011  

Amid the Islamic tsunami sweeping Egypt’s parliamentary elections the ultra-conservative Salafist Nour party says it is willing to hold talks with Israel.

Salafi al-Nour Party spokesman Yousri Hammad told Egypt’s daily al-Arabia that reports party chairman Emad Abdul Ghafour was willing to maintain contacts with Israel were true – and added doing so did not violate Islamic principles.

“We have not received an official request from Israel yet, but if we sit with Israel, it has to be through the Egyptian Foreign Ministry,” he said.

The Salafi al-Nour Party garnered about 25 percent of the votes in the first and second round of Egypt’s parliamentary elections.

“Egypt is signatory to international treaties and these have to be respected,” added Hammad, who stressed several never activated clauses in the 1979 Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty needed to be implemented. “This is not my personal opinion or that of the party chairman. It is part of the party’s policies.”

The party’s chairman, Emad Abdul Ghafour, stirred the kettle of controversy in Cairo last week when he focused on the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel.

In doing so Ghafour staked out a distinct position from the Muslim Brotherhood, which has tapped into popular anti-Israel sentiment on the banks of the Nile by suggesting the 1979 Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty could be cancelled.

Abdul Ghafour stressed that diplomatic relations with Israel would continue as long as they serve the interests of Egypt and the Arab world.

“If we become once more the powerful country we had been before, Israel will have greater respect for us and we will be able to revise the terms of the treaty.”

Abdul Ghafour explained that issuing fixed judgments regarding the relationship with Israel is quite difficult since the context in which this relationship is formulated is of extreme importance.

“Politics is in a state of constant change so circumstances have to be taken into consideration. This applies to Israel and any other country.”

While Ghafour did not say what circumstances drove his party’s current pragmatic stance on maintaining relations with Israel, analysts say money is a critical factor.

A bill recently proposed in the US Congress stipulates American military aid to Egypt be contingent upon the testimony of the Secretary of State before the Congress that Egypt is not violating any of the terms in the treaty with Israel.

The bill gives the Secretary of State the right to lift this condition if aid to Egypt is proven to serve US national interests. Proof to that effect must be written in reports that are to be presented to both the House of Representatives and the Senate.

Congress has already approved a bill for this year’s 1.3 billion dollars in security aid and 250 million dollars in economic on condition that the 1979 Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty be upheld and that the military transfer power in Egypt is to a civilian government that respects human rights and freedom of faith and expression.

A source close to the foreign ministry told Arutz Sheva that Israel’s ambassador to Egypt is expected to begin contacts with Islamist officials in Egypt, particularly the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafi al-Nour Party.

The Muslim Brotherhood and Salafi al-Nour parties have taken first and second place, respectively, in Egypt’s elections.

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